We’ve all seen them. Those amazing “before” and “after” pictures in the ad next to a product that promises magical results. How nice it would be to be able to take a magical pill or potion that propels us straight towards our goals. And since the goal for the majority of people concerned with fitness is weight or fat loss, it’s not hard to understand why “fat burners” are one of the biggest and most purchased category items in the supplement industry. But do they work? Are they something you should even consider or just a way to part you from your money?
First, lets define what a “fat burner” is. Basically it is a product, item, or substances that is used or taken to enhance, increase, or improve the body’s ability to process, burn, or lose body fat either through more rapid fat breakdown and/or utilization, and/or improved or increased ability to burn calories via thermogenic effect or metabolic increase. In others words, they are something that will help you break down and/or burn fat faster than you normally would. Sounds cool, but is this true? Do they even work?
Before we go any further lets get one thing straight. The most important “fat burner” you can have is getting your diet correct! If you’re taking in too many calories or the wrong types of easier to store foods, you will not see the results you want no matter what pill or potion you consume. The second most important “fat burner” is a regular and effective exercise program. Your devotion to a fitness lifestyle is a bigger key to success than anything you might take.
Products sold as fat burners can be individual substances or formulas which are combinations of various things. They may be vitamins, enzymes, herbal or plant based products, stimulant or non stimulant, natural or chemical, well known or complete mysteries to be honest. The category is so broad that it isn’t possible to make a blanket statement that accurately reflects them all. It can include things like CLA, Garcina Cambogia, Yohimbine, Choline, L-Carnitine, Synephrine, Green Tea Extract, Caffeine Anhydrous, Ephedra, Cayenne Pepper, and many others. There are some items that are very well researched as to the effects they can have on fat metabolism like caffeine. There are other items with mixed research results that show favorable reports in some cases and little results in others. There are some with little to no research behind them to support the claims being made by the companies who sell them. So what should you believe and how do you know if these products will work for you?
The first step to take is easy. Get your diet right and be diligent with it. Then, get you training right and stay consistent. Once again, those two factors will always be the biggest keys to your success. Lose as much as you can just by following a proper fitness lifestyle. If you get to a point where you still feel that you may need assistance and you want to give fat burners a try, then do your homework. Check the latest research on any and every ingredient that you are considering. Most fat burner formulas will have a pretty standard combination of ingredients with just a few variations. Check out those varying substances and see if there is any competent research that support their effectiveness. Don’t expect magic and don’t believe the hype. Certainly don’t only look at the ads. I know of a fitness model who appeared in major “before” and “after” ad campaigns for fat burner products. The “before” pictures were taken soon after childbirth. The “after” pictures were taken once she gotten back to her former competition level self. Does that mean that the product was useless? No, but the ads were certainly misleading and part of the aggressive marketing landscape that you might find.
Personally, I don’t encourage my clients to use fat burners. But I’m not opposed to their using them and many of my competition clients do use them. What I advise them in those cases is first, lets get the diet and the training right and get the body working as best it can. Then, if/when it starts to get stubborn (as it can easily do once the fat stores get lower) if you want to use a fat burner product, that would be the time to try them. Fat burner formulas (especially the stimulant ones) are not something that you should use all the time. And more is not better and can actually be harmful, so care must be taken to follow the appropriate directions. Like with anything else, results will vary. I know people who swear by them and others who say they noticed nothing. Most of the ones I’ve heard good things about were fat burning formulas with a stimulant or caffeine base, but again, these products have to be used with caution and should not be used indefinitely. And while research does show effectiveness for some things, we can also not rule out the placebo effect. It works because we believe it will and we want it to. Then again, if I believe I will make a million dollars, and I work harder and smarter and longer because of that belief, if I make a million dollars, I still have a million dollars. :)
Fat Burners are a huge money maker for the fitness industry. They are also overhyped and are commonly overused by certain people who want something that will do the work for them. They are not magic and will not transform you overnight into a fitness superstar. But if you do the work of following the right diet and training program, once you’ve gotten those initial results, you can then do your homework on any products that interest you. If something sounds reasonable and you feel that it might assist you in achieving your goal, or make the process a little easier, you might want to give it a try. Just don’t expect magic or believe in miracles, and know that most of your success will be determined by you.